We didnt all sign up for the cheerleading squad

Pam
Pam Frampton
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Someone once told me a story about how they played in a provincial high school athletic tournament years ago against a team from La Scie.
What they remembered most vividly was not the game itself, but the cheerleaders from La Scie, who chanted with great enthusiasm:

"Who are we?
La Scie!
La Scie! La Scie!
That's we."

The thought of that always brings a smile to my face, in part because it reflects a community's confidence and strength of identity. We are who we are. Need we say more?
It's the kind of image we should cultivate as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. We are, to use a favourite expression of the premier's, "proud, strong and determined."
And yet, we can also be paranoid, bombastic and full of ourselves. We like to boast of offering "hospitality that's second to none," when, in fact, you can encounter exceptional hospitality all over the world.
We like to think that we are the most generous, the most welcoming, the most fun-loving, wittiest, warmest, most salt-of-the-earth people there are. And yes, you can find people with all of those positive traits here.
And you will also find people who are contemptuous and critical of so-called "outsiders," even if the outsiders have spent decades living here and contributing to the fabric of our society.
When people are displeased with this newspaper, for example, they will refer to it as being "Quebec-owned," when in fact we are shareholder owned, and as if having a head office in Quebec somehow detracts from the local news coverage we deliver using local expertise and resources.
Well, where do you think AbitibiBowater's head office in Canada is? And yet we didn't mind taking well-paying jobs from that company, nor do we mind one bit that Vale Inco is headquartered in Toronto or that IOC's corporate offices are in Montreal, as long as things are going our way.
The gist of this - and, being a born-and-bred Newfoundlander, presumably I, at least, have a God-given right to say something - is that as a province, we can be incredibly thin-skinned, to the point that anyone who issues a criticism of anything in this place, even an objective and constructive comment, is denounced as a traitorous rogue.
It's the old "you're either for us or agin' us" mindset.

Yes sir, Danny sir
But perhaps that's not surprising given the fact that our very own premier seems to think that, rather than us all being equal, contributing members of this society who are entitled to think and speak for ourselves, we should all be wearing the same cheerleading uniform and mindlessly echoing his message.

Way to go, Danny! Way to go!
Hebron and Inco, way to go!
Kill a pond, create some jobs, way to go!
Transmission lines through a national park, way to go!

Pessimism, negativity and crap you say?
Hardly. There are things the Williams administration has done that I'm all in favour of. Who can quibble with a poverty reduction strategy, for goodness sake? Paying down the debt? Good on ya! Equity stakes in our own resources? Smart move. Cameron inquiry? The right call (except the part where the government tried to undermine it.)
And I could go on and on, but I won't, because the government has professional cheerleaders, called Tory MHAs, who are paid good money to do just that.
But please don't expect us all to be cheerleaders.

What are we afraid of?
Last week, a letter-writer to this paper was aghast at the fact that we have a restaurant reviewer who has the audacity to actually review restaurants!
"Do not wash your laundry in the public eye!" he admonished Karl Wells. "A true, dedicated, professional food critic would not stoop to that degree."
Well, in fact, a true, dedicated professional food critic would do exactly as Wells does, which is sample an establishment's food and offer praise and constructive feedback where deserved.
And I would warrant that a true, dedicated, professional food establishment would welcome free publicity and helpful advice.
We've got some great things going on in this province: examples of excellent service in our hospitality industry, breathtaking scenery, friendly people, world-class tourist attractions and a bright future.
That doesn't mean everything's perfect and that there aren't areas where we can't all improve.
Frankly, I think it's time we grew up and shed our insecurities and dropped the false bravado.
If we're as good as any place else in the world, as we keep telling people we are, we've got to be willing to allow people to make comparisons.
And unlike our stunningly attractive tourism ads, with their pumped-up colours and surrealistically spick-and-span street scenes, we've got to be willing to put ourselves out there, warts and all, and not automatically get our backs up if someone is gutsy enough to point out a flaw or two.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram's story editor. She can be reached by e-mail at pframpton@thetelegram.com. Read her columns online at www.thetelegram.com.

Geographic location: La Scie, Quebec, Canada Toronto Montreal

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Recent comments

  • Chris
    July 02, 2010 - 13:28

    Pam,

    You touched on a topic that needed to be addressed - specifically the cheerleading, thin skin, pessimism, negatively and crap. You are right, we are not cheerleaders for Danny Williams but we can acknowledge the good things he has done some of which you mentioned. However, we should be permitted to voice our dissent without fear of retribution or a phone call from a pissed off Danny Williams.

    It no secret that Williams has a thin skin and hes my way or the highway attitude rubs many the wrong way. The Cabinet appears to be handcuffed when it comes to speaking freely as Williams has the final say. And youre right, if he wants cheerleading, all he has to do is look around the cabinet table.

    Dissent is a good thing. Politicians have to be held accountable. But the dissent does not have to be personal although many times it is. There is no need to get in a mudsling contest that involves everyone and their mother. Well thought out, articulate arguments that make valid points, should suffice and trump any sos-your-mother-buddy response.

    You ask what are we afraid of. When sticking out our collective necks, we should be willing to take just as good as we give. But thats usually not the case. Many people are fearful and hesitate to say whats on their mind save for those under the pretext of anonymity. Im not saying anonymous comments or pseudonyms are a bad thing. What is wrong is the fear of retribution and personal attacks has forced many to go that route.

  • Phoebe Tilley
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Excellent observations as usual about King Danny. Sad thing is many people still drink from the great cup of cool-aid Danny provides for them.

  • Ken
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Pam, great article. Ditto on the previous writers comments. You raise an important issue and one that will eventually come to the fore.
    I meant to have commented earlier but was too busy.
    I actually referred to you in an e-mail I recently sent to Bob Wakeham.
    Keep up the good work.

  • Chris
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    Pam,

    You touched on a topic that needed to be addressed - specifically the cheerleading, thin skin, pessimism, negatively and crap. You are right, we are not cheerleaders for Danny Williams but we can acknowledge the good things he has done some of which you mentioned. However, we should be permitted to voice our dissent without fear of retribution or a phone call from a pissed off Danny Williams.

    It no secret that Williams has a thin skin and hes my way or the highway attitude rubs many the wrong way. The Cabinet appears to be handcuffed when it comes to speaking freely as Williams has the final say. And youre right, if he wants cheerleading, all he has to do is look around the cabinet table.

    Dissent is a good thing. Politicians have to be held accountable. But the dissent does not have to be personal although many times it is. There is no need to get in a mudsling contest that involves everyone and their mother. Well thought out, articulate arguments that make valid points, should suffice and trump any sos-your-mother-buddy response.

    You ask what are we afraid of. When sticking out our collective necks, we should be willing to take just as good as we give. But thats usually not the case. Many people are fearful and hesitate to say whats on their mind save for those under the pretext of anonymity. Im not saying anonymous comments or pseudonyms are a bad thing. What is wrong is the fear of retribution and personal attacks has forced many to go that route.

  • Phoebe Tilley
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    Excellent observations as usual about King Danny. Sad thing is many people still drink from the great cup of cool-aid Danny provides for them.

  • Ken
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    Pam, great article. Ditto on the previous writers comments. You raise an important issue and one that will eventually come to the fore.
    I meant to have commented earlier but was too busy.
    I actually referred to you in an e-mail I recently sent to Bob Wakeham.
    Keep up the good work.